Why You Must Go on South Africa's Exclusive Garden Route Drive

Why You Must Go on South Africa’s Exclusive Garden Route Drive

There are quite a number of exciting things to do on South Africa's Garden Route but Eileen recommends 10 activities that are definitely worth a try.

I have previously blogged about how I planned my South African road trip on the Garden Route, which without a doubt, is one of the best drives I ever did. My friend and I drove through lush mountains, coastlines and we had nature surprising us at every turn.

The moment we got off the flight and started the road trip, we were greeted by this sight.

garden route

Every moment I was in the country, I felt ever so thankful to be present.

However, beyond the scenic tour, there is a whole chunk of activities for you to indulge in to make your trip a lot more wholesome than it already is.

Also read: 4 Daredevil Adventures for Hardcore Adrenaline Junkies

1. Meet and greet with the penguins

Boulders Beach

The first stop after we landed was Simon Town, famed for their Boulder Beach, where you see the cute little black and white birds waddling around. When I first told people that I’m going to see the penguins in Africa, the reaction I got was “There’s penguins in Africa?!”. YES, there is (think Madagascar). We couldn’t get enough of these adorable creatures so we made a detour to Betty’s Bay the very next day to a less touristy location for penguins to nestle. But do be mindful, although they look kind, the penguins do bite and they peck real hard!

Also read: White Desert Lets You Camp with the Penguins of Antarctica

Betty’s Bay

2. Dive with the great white sharks

Before setting off

Hermanus, which is along the Garden Route, offers one of the best spots in the world for great white sharks diving and it’s a lot cheaper in comparison to other parts of the world. The best part of it is that you don’t even need any dive certificate to experience this. All you need to do is to hold your breath, and enjoy live action JAWS in your face. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not that scary. For those who need recommendation, I stayed at Hermanus Backpackers and they liaised with a shark cage company for a good deal (ZAR995 / SGD117 per person). I enjoyed my experience and I’m pretty sure you will too. It’s truly once in a lifetime.

Also read: Dive Into South African Waters and Unearth its Mysteries

Shark approaching cage

3. Stay at a safari, in a tent

exterior of our tent

You cannot go to South Africa and not stay at least one night in the safari, seriously. There are several safaris along the Garden Route and the choices might be overwhelming to pick from. If you’re having difficulty, try considering what animals you want to see (for me it was the Big 5), location so that you can fit it in your route, and price perhaps for some a little under budget (safaris can be very expensive!) I stayed a night at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve in their tents and it was simply amazing. They even managed to put a bath tub in there and the service was impeccable. Botlierskop has a very interesting history as it was struck by an unfortunate series of floods due to its location, but you’ll understand why the owners hung on and restructured the place over and over again, it’s beautiful. Most of the safaris offer a range of activities to suit your needs, we went for one Game Drive and a Lion Walk. Take your pick!

Also read: African Safari: Taking Wildlife Adventure to a Whole New Level

My Game Drive guide and I

4. Jump off a (the highest) bridge

Bloukran Bridge

Disclaimer: This activity is not for the faint hearted.

For those who want to bungee jump, try it at Bloukran Bridge for it’s the highest bridge bungee jump in the world. Face Adrenaline conducts the jumps and they are very professional in what they do and they make the experience fun on top of it being safe. There has been no fatalities. There is even one hard core dude that jumped 101 times off Bloukran within 14hours 23minutes (I salute your #yolo spirit). I will never forget the feeling of looking down from 216m (even thinking about it makes my heartbeat faster). No regrets.

Also read: 7 Practically Suicidal Activities to Try on Your Holiday

me jumping off the bridge

5. Walk a cheetah

Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness and Rehabilitation Centre is along the Garden Route and it is a non-profit rehab centre set up in 2003 to nurse animals back to health before placing them back into the wild. As the name suggest, it also raises awareness to the harm exposed to animals in the wild such as poaching and hunting. The one activity (amongst others) that you must try at Tenikwa is walking with the cheetah. I think this is pretty self explanatory, I mean, how often do you get to walk a freaking cheetah in the woods?! It’s safe, the cheetahs grew up in the centre and they are tamed (and irresistibly cute). I was lucky enough to walk the biggest cheetah at the centre, his name is Duma, and I came out alive. Go for it!

Taken during the walk at Tenikwa

6. Get lost in Tsitsikamma

In the middle of the forest during a trail

Tsitsikamma is known for their multiple trails, some even take days to complete. Experience one of the most gorgeous regions in South Africa on foot. For the adventurous bunch, take the Tsitsikamma Trail and plan it to your preference (usually between 2-6 days). You will meander through the flora and fauna of the forest, go pass waterfalls or choose to plunge into a rock pool.

Waterfall trail

7. Flock with the birds in the world’s largest aviary

Birds of Eden

The World’s Largest Free Flight Aviary, is situated along the Garden Route known as Birds of Eden. This is probably not advisable for those who are afraid of the avian creatures but those who like to marvel at these feathered friends dressed in colourful coats, this will be a good pit stop. The one mistake I made here was not buying the guide for birds BEFORE I entered the aviary. There were so many species that I couldn’t recognise due to my lack of knowledge (I could only name the Tucan, Macaw thanks to Rio, and flamingos). Well bottom line, I think I would have got a lot more out of my visit if I had bought it prior so do remember to get yours if you’re an amateur like me but keen to find out more! There’s really quite a vast number of interesting species in the aviary that I’m sure will catch your attention.

Ring-necked Parakeet

8. Play “Spot-the-Animal” at Addo Elephant National Park

Elephant crossing the road

I LOVE the Addo Elephant National Park. It’s more than just elephants. You can literally conduct your own game drive! The rules are simple, you drive in, with whatever four wheel vehicle you are cruising in (we were in a Toyota sedan), you get a list of animals when you enter the national park, start finding them at your own pace and direction and tick them off (there were lions, leopards and hyenas even). Just remember to stay IN your vehicle at all times, or exit at your own risk at designated spots. If you’re afraid you’ll run out of petrol, there are even gas stations within the national park. It’s really fun! (I felt like a kid again). I had a tremendous time and it’s by far my favourite national park in South Africa! I could have spent more than a day there. Apparently Kruger National Park is a lot bigger but it’s up at the Limpopo province and I’ve yet to explore. I’ll be glad to visit next time!

Zebra grazing grass

9. Ride an ostrich

My friend enjoying the ostrich ride

I was honestly more nervous for my ostrich ride than the bungee. The back of the ostrich has barely enough room for my butt. Its legs are so skinny and it runs like a maniac. It’s crazy, it’s hilarious and traumatising, but you got to do it if you visit the ostrich farm. Do it and laugh at yourself after you’re done, I did. Verdict, I rather jump off the bridge but I’m glad I can tell you how it feels to ride an ostrich. (My friend really enjoyed her ostrich ride though, maybe because her butt was smaller and she stayed on longer). Ride and tell me if you enjoyed it!

Ostrich farm

10. Try not to get stuck in the Cango cave

Cango cave

There’s a reason for this and it even made the BBC news. This extensive cave is one of the country’s finest and a quarter of it is opened to visitors. It offers two tours, the “Standard tour” and the “Adventure tour” and it was on the “Adventure tour” that the lady got stuck. When we went through the tunnel of love on our “Adventure tour”, it was indeed narrow so the “Adventure tour” isn’t for those that are extremely claustrophobic, horizontally challenged, or have bad knees and joints. You do need some level of fitness to crawl through the series of tunnels. I highly encourage people to try the “Adventure tour” but if this is not for you, the standard tour is enough to give you a good sense of why this cave is so popular. The rock formations are incredible and it doesn’t take a geologist to realise that (of course they can go into the intricate sciencey details but at least I can go “WOW” at the look of it).

Also read: The Reality About Being on the Road

Colourful sky during sunset through the car’s side mirror

There are plenty of other activities that you can try on the Garden Route but these are some that I did and I thought were worth sharing. If you do go for them, I’m almost certain you will enjoy it too! A guide for Cape Town will be up soon. Meanwhile, drive safe.

Peace & Love,

Eileen x

Contributed by peregrinate with me.

About Author

Eileen Fong

Eileen Fong is a Singaporean explorer who lived in UK for 5 years during an important phase of life. There, she was exposed to different cultures around the world, thus nurturing her passion for travel and exploration. She now pens her stories on her site, "Peregrinate with me", to encourage fellow travellers to venture out of their comfort zones and see the beauty of places.


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